How Addiction Affects Relationships

You may not notice the signs at first. Your spouse habitually comes home late from work. Your teenager is evasive and can’t answer your questions about where she’s been and what she’s been doing. Your boyfriend starts snapping at you about nothing at all. At first it may seem like a bad patch or a phase. But the behavior continues, and grows worse amid other troubling signs—forgetfulness, fatigue, loss of appetite, mood swings. A relationship you thought was strong starts to disintegrate. You may be experiencing what it’s like to be in love with an addict.

Often, the conversation about addiction naturally focuses on the addicts and the detrimental physical, emotional, and mental problems they struggle with. But even the healthiest relationships can come undone by the ravages of substance abuse. The loved one of an addict—whether it is a spouse, sibling, parent, orpartner—can be profoundly affected by the addiction and must suffer the heartbreaking consequences.

Relationship Issues Caused by Substance Abuse

Addiction can be insidious, permeating all aspects of a relationship. There are several ways that addiction commonly fractures marriages, families, and romantic relationships:

Financial stress. Addicts will often spend considerable money to purchase the drugs or alcohol they crave. That can mean siphoning money from a loved one’s wallet or making substantial withdrawals from a shared bank account. Couple that with the fact that addiction often jeopardizes a career, and it can be draining on shared finances. In turn, that can cause a great deal of stress, which can lead to arguments over money.

Loss of connection. Intimacy in a relationship can be seriously damaged by addiction. When someone is in the grip of an addiction, everything else can fade away. The only important thing is getting high and all time and energy is devoted to making that happen. Addicts may even disappear for hours or days without explanation. When someone is consumed with an addiction, they can’t spend time maintaining relationships and consequently those bonds begin to fray.

Breach of trust. Often, addicts will resort to lying to cover up the substance abuse. Perhaps they will minimize the extent of their addiction, fib about where they are spending time, or outright deny that there is a problem. Loved ones who have to deal with repeated untruths will begin to lose faith and trust and the relationship can spiral downward from there. The secrecy can also take a toll on the person with an addiction, who may isolate from loved ones in order to avoid the issue entirely.

Unhealthy relationship patterns. As the problems stemming fromaddiction continue to intensify, it can lead to dysfunction. A partner might develop a codependent relationship with the addict, falling into the role of acaretaker who ignores the depth of the problem. A loved one can also become enabling, loaning money to a boyfriend or girlfriend even though it will probably be used to feed the drug or alcohol habit, or making excuses to children to explain why their parent is frequently absent from the home.

Emotional troubles. Most substances negatively affect the brain, which can impair emotional health. An addict may grow depressed or anxious. There could be mood swings that trigger anger or irritability. Addiction can also inhibit healthy sleep and eating habits, and that can also exacerbate any emotional problems. In severe cases with some substances, such as meth, cocaine, or alcohol, an addict may become violent, bringing an increased risk of domestic abuse into the home. If there is any act of violence, a loved one needs to take immediate steps to become safe.

Repairing Relationships Affected by Addiction

Addiction doesn’t have to permanently destroy relationships. The first thing an addict must do is admit there is a problem, and to seek professional treatment at a highly qualified program such as Sheer Recovery, where our team of licensed and experienced staffers can help people grappling with substance abuse.

As the person works on the addiction, the issues underlying the substance abuse will be examined during therapy sessions. At some point, if appropriate, family members or loved ones may also be asked to participate in counseling with the addict. This type of couples or family counseling should continue even after the person with the addiction completes the treatment program and returns to normal life. There will probably be many issues to work through in order to rebuild a healthy, strong relationship and a professional counselor will be able to walk clients through that difficult process.

There also needs to be a renewed commitment to being open and honest in order to rebuild trust. Again, this is where counseling can be helpful in providing emotional tools or hashing out issues.

Once a recovery program is completed, one important factor in maintaining sobriety is a 12-step group that offers supportand accountability. At the same time, a loved one dealing with theafter-effects of addiction should also consider finding support through a groupspecifically aimed at family members. Both types of recovery groups offer waysto connect with people in similar circumstances who can share their experiencesand offer special empathy.

Addiction is dangerous to the users as well as the people they love. While it may seem relationships can’t withstand the strain, recovery programs and a commitment to sobriety can offer hope that these bonds may berebuilt—and once rebuilt, they may even grow stronger from working through addiction together. If you are jeopardizing an important relationship because of your addiction, don’t hesitate to seek help immediately. The decision to go to rehab can give you the opportunity to save arelationship and rebuild trust. Don’t lose someone you love because of addiction. Contact Sheer Recovery today.


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